"Nobody has guaranteed us EU, people are no longer jubilant"
A majority of Serbians is still in favor of EU membership, although EU's popularity here has dropped, President Aleksandar Vucic has told Euronews.Source: Tanjug
The broadcaster's Sandor Zsiros recalled that Vucic told Euronews two year ago Serbia was "tired of waiting for European Union accession," and asked, "How do you feel now, before the Sofia summit?"
"During these two years, we had another drop of EU popularity in Serbia. But anyway, we still have the majority of the population on our side. People are not jubilant anymore about it, but, rationally speaking, they are for our EU path," Vucic said.
According to Euronews, "Serbia, along with Montenegro, is likely to be the next country to join the European Union, possibly by 2025 - the EU hopes Belgrade's influence in the Balkans could help other aspirant members reform, but it is not all plain sailing."
Asked when Serbia could join the EU, considering that the European Commission's budget proposal contains "no indication" of enlargement by 2027, Vucic replied:
"First of all, I think that no one has ever guaranteed us that we would be a part of the European Union in 2025. But they were saying: 'If you deliver...' It was mainly about the Kosovo arrangement. 'If you resolve all our problems with Pristina' and than everything else including the rule of law and everything that we are asked to do, then we might become a member of the EU in 2025. And we are on our EU path since 2000. It has already passed 18 years and that's why people feel, from time to time, exhausted. But anyway there are no better solutions. We will do our job. And we will invest huge efforts, attempting to find a solution for the Kosovo crisis."
Asked what normalization between Pristina and Belgrade would look in reality, "especially when you look at the fact that last week the Kosovo karate team was actually banned from Serbia," he said that Serbia in that case acted properly.
"We allowed them to enter, but with no state flags of Kosovo. Because to us they are not a state. But not only to us. But to all the others. And we agreed that they would come without state flags and there won't be state flags of Serbia as well, and all the other countries. And you can do it, no national anthems and everything else. They were responding; 'No, no, we don't accept it' because they wanted to be banned."
Vucic rejected the interviewer's claim Pristina's attempt was "the same kind of provocation" as when Belgrade last year "sent this train to Kosovo with a huge Serbian flag and with the banner saying 'Kosovo is Serbia'."
"There are no mutual provocations. If you see, when you say to us, that Kosovo is an independent state, is that a huge provocation against Serbia? And you think that even your country, the country that you are coming from, has recognized the independence of Kosovo, is that a huge provocation today? Should I consider yourself as a big provocateur? Because you have a different opinion on the legal status of Kosovo than we do? We respect the fact that they think differently, speaking about the legal status of Kosovo, than we do. And that's the difference. And you really think still that it was a provocation that someone was writing that 'Kosovo was Serbia'," the president said, and continued:
"Wow. I think that Kosovo is Serbia. Am I provoking you? Or what? Are you going to arrest me? Kill me? Or what? If that's a big provocation. And at the same time, I am very much ready to speak about compromise and to do as many concessions as possible. But not to humiliate Serbian people. And not to undermine Serbia's interests," the president said.
Asked why Serbia, as an EU candidate, refuses to join sanctions against Russia, Vucic replied:
"Can you imagine us imposing sanctions against Russia? Russia is the only country, together with China, that is supporting us in the United Nations Security Council when we speak about the territorial integrity of Serbia. What do you expect from us? To cut our both legs? And then to say, okay now everything is good. And to say yes, when we say 'Kosovo is Serbia' that's a big provocation. It shows that even you did not come to me and you don't think that you should be neutral regarding the status of Kosovo. No. Although there are five EU countries that don't recognize the independence of Kosovo. Why don't you say to them, that they are provoking Europe on a daily basis."
As for whether Serbia can fulfill the Copenhagen criteria, Vucic said his country would be "very ready to discuss all the problems that people feel."
"But I was listening from all the others that, in Serbia, will happen... terrible attacks and murders and everything else but it happened in Slovakia, in Malta, in Montenegro recently. But it did not happen so far in Serbia. You have heard of some of these cases that were happening in Serbia? No. You have not. And it won't happen. But I am also absolutely certain that we need to do something because one part of our media society and civil society, they are dissatisfied for some reasons. And I am very ready to listen to them and to see what we can do to overcome these kind of different opinions and to see what we can do to sit down together and to find the best possible solutions for everyone. But please buy tomorrow's papers and tell me, is there anyone that is more attacked than myself?," the president said.
Asked about the New York Times saying recently that Serbia was "edging closer to autocracy," and about the Foreign Affairs magazine dubbing him "Europe's favorite autocrat," Vucic said:
"That was not said by those magazines or papers. That was said by Serbs, my political opponents, that were writing those articles."
Lyon-based Euronews is a European broadcaster chosen by the EU as the official news service in Europe, Tanjug said.